In the late 19th century, Ketchum, Idaho was a booming mining town. Originally called Leadville, the town was home to several smelters in the 1880's, and was responsible for processing large quantities of silver and lead for years. Eventually things slowed for Ketchum, and the prosperity that it saw for decades came to an end. Years later and inspired by the success of Lake Placid's Winter Olympics in 1932, and spurred by the growing popularity of alpine skiing in the States, W. Averell Harriman was determined to develop the country's first destination mountain resort, similar to what he had seen on trips to Europe. Enlisting the help of Count Felix Schaffgosch, the pair determined that Ketchum's beautiful landscape, moderate elevation, abundant sunshine, and the prominence of Bald Mountain
overlooking town made for an ideal landing spot for the country's preeminent winter destination and the world's first chairlifts were installed in 1936. In the nearly 80 years since, Sun Valley/Ketchum has been lauded as a 4-season adventure paradise, and in recent years mountain biking has become a prominent enterprise in town and throughout the surrounding area, and given the current circumstances the world finds itself facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it's as important as ever to head outside for some fresh air and space on two wheels.Lay of the Land:
Situated at just under 6,000 feet above sea level, Sun Valley rests at the base of Bald Mountain, a 9,150 foot tall mountain in the heart of Sawtooth National Forest. There are several other noteworthy summits surrounding town, several of which top out above 9,000 feet, and most have trails on them. Average high temps creep just into the. 80's during the summer months, but the humidity remains low and the overnight temps often dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The high-desert climate mixes open sage with timber making for dry and dusty conditions more often than not. There is a noteworthy range of riding options throughout the region that makes for some diverse trail styles for riders of all abilities from far-out adventure rides to mellow loops. Please note that the lifts will not be
spinning during the 2020 riding season.
Galena has over 30 miles of forested and flowy trails, with some descents covering 1,500 vertical feet that end in town. Galena Lodge offers up guided tours, as well as legendary post-ride eats. Spring Creek
is a playful, flowy 6-mile intermediate ride that drops a total of nearly 1,600 feet while still keeping the legs honest with 1,000 feet of climbing as well.
Just south of town between Buttercup Mountain and Kelly Mountain is where you'll find some properly rugged, more backcountry oriented trails to explore. Link up Wolftone - Deer Creek - North Fork
trails for a quietly awesome adventure.
If you'd like to fully exhaust yourself on some sublime ribbons of alpine singletrack, try this: Start on Osberg Ridge Trail, turn left onto Adam's Gulch, make another left at Harper's
and keep pedaling from the bottom straight to Lefty's for a beer.What's New:
Sun Valley and the rest of Idaho are currently in the final phase of reopening and while visitors are allowed to enter the state, the community is asking that people continue to practice social distancing measures. That includes wearing a mask while visiting businesses or whenever social distancing is not possible, practicing air high fives, and giving each other 6 feet of space. Sun Valley published a resource for how to better explore the area during the pandemic called Mindfulness in the Mountains
, and it's certainly worth a read.Local Bike Shops:
Sun Valley has several top notch options for your bike sales and service needs. PK's Bike Shop
offers full suspension demos and rentals, as well as cruiser rentals for those looking to explore the area without needing to pack a bike. Backwoods Mountain Sports
is the area's premier shop for backcountry exploration. The Elephant's Perch
has been serving Sun Valley for over 40 years. Sturtevants
offers up the area's only trailhead shuttle service, as well as women's shop rides. As is the case around the world, please wear a mask and practice social distancing guidelines anytime you enter any of these businesses.Local Mountain Biking Clubs:
From the The Wood River Trails Coalition
: "The WRTC is a trail stewardship organization working to create, maintain and sustain our trail network for all users."Restaurants and Accommodation:
As a longtime outdoor recreation hotspot, Sun Valley is well equipped for visitors and their bikes with a range of options for all budgets, and plenty of bike-centric vibes.Limelight Hotel
is a 99-room property in the heart of downtown Ketchum, with an on-site bike shop and bike storage as well.
Hipster and boutique vibes abound at Hotel Ketchum
in the surrounding mountain ranges is something special, and it's arguably the most responsible means of travel at the moment. Fortunately, there are plenty of options throughout the region from RV hookups to primitive dispersed sites.The Warfield Distillery and Brewery
has - you guessed it - plenty of tasty brews and spirits to keep you smiling after your ride, as well as some super tasty eats to replenish all of those calories you'll burn in the mountains. Lefty's
is the go-to for tasty and cheap eats and drinks post-ride.
If you're looking for something a bit different, try Rickshaw's
Asian streetfood. Powerhouse
is a bike shop with burgers and beers on tap. Bikes, burgers, beers. Yes.Sawtooth Brewery
is a staple in the area, with a public house as well as a roaming food truck.Must Dos:
Considered by many to be the crown jewel of spring creeks in all of the Rocky Mountains, Silver Creek is a fly fisherman's paradise. Located about 40 miles south of town and managed by The Nature Conservancy, these calm and clear waters are frequented by massive rainbow and brown trout. A variety of wildlife frequent the area as well, including moose, elk, and several species of raptor. While it's noteworthy for requiring patience even among experienced fisherman, those who might be less interested in casting and more interested in relaxing can always opt for a float down the gentle gradient as well.
Of course Sun Valley famously inspired the works of one of America's most famous authors, Ernest Hemingway, and for those who interested in taking a deep dive into his life and times are encouraged to do so. His favorite watering hole, hunting ground, home, and final resting place are all available to those who want a better glimpse into the life and sensibilities of the revered novelist.
For more things to do, see, and eat in Sun Valley click hereSun Valley mountain biking trails